End of Season Review - Berries, Fruit Trees & Herbs
My final review! I must say, when I started my end of season reviews back in November, I thought it would be more of a sprint than a marathon. In hindsight, there were so many changes this year and I learned so much that I should have realized my reviews would be on the lengthy side. And of course, looking back at the 2012 & 2013 garden (pre-blog) also added to the length of each post. But as I mentioned previously, it has been a much more rewarding experience than I originally anticipated, so I’m happy.
The only berries in the garden so far are strawberries. I have two varieties growing in a single 4’x8’ bed, with each variety taking up approximately half of the bed - Fort Laramie and an unnamed variety that I received from a neighbor (which I have since named CV for “Connie’s Variety”).
Right about now, the winter is seeming mighty long...
In 2012, I did get a handful of strawberries – and I do mean a “handful” - from the surviving plants. The harvest was so small that I didn't even bother weighing them. That’s also when I discovered that the birds were enjoying the strawberries too. They probably ended up eating the other handful ;)
|Only 5 more months!|
So, after my plants had fruited, I decided to transplant them into their own 4’ x 4’ spot.
In 2013, I harvested 607 grams (1.34 lbs) of CV. Not a huge harvest, but definitely an improvement over 2012. Giving the plants their own spot & protecting them from the birds with netting helped a lot.
That spring I also purchased a single Fort Laramie plant. I let the runners from both CV and Fort Laramie go crazy all summer, pinning the new plantlets to the soil. In the fall, I took all of those baby plants and transplanted them into their current bed. I already had a plan in place for all the new beds I was going to put in the following spring, so using a full bed for strawberries wasn’t an issue at that point.
Overall Impressions and Plan for Next Year
Although the Fort Laramie were just as delicious as CV, they were not as well formed or prolific. I’m going to give Fort Laramie another try next year, but if it still doesn’t give me that second flush of berries in the fall, I will probably pull it & plant a different variety in 2016.
However, since next year will be the strawberry beds 2nd year, I'm hoping for a larger harvest overall, even if that second crop of berries never materializes.
I only have two fruit trees so far - a sweet cherry (Vandalay) and a 5-in-1 plum.
The cherry tree is a semi-dwarf. It sits at around 6' right now and is self-pollinating. The plum tree is about 7' tall and has the following varieties grafted to it: Shiro, Burbank, French Prune & Santa Rosa. There is one other graft on there, but I took the tag off as it was growing into the bark and now, of course, I can't find it. I think it may have been an Italian plum. I will take some photos of the trees once they leaf out in the spring.
Some of the grafts on the plum tree are decidedly more vigourous than others. Santa Rosa is a mere twig on the side of the tree. It died back almost completely last winter, but did grow back again this summer. The Shiro is by far the largest section. I have done some pruning but I definitely need to do more as I don't want one variety to take over the others.
Both trees were purchased and planted in June 2010 and our first small harvest was in 2013.
The numbers shown are for fruit that was actually eaten. Quite a few fruits from both trees were discarded as they had become infested with the plum curculio. I didn’t note how many of the plums were discarded, but for the cherries, we tossed about 350 grams, so about 1/3 of the harvest.
This past year, I was so excited thinking that, with both trees in their fourth year, we would be getting a nice sized harvest. Sadly, not one cherry nor plum was harvested. The severe, record breaking cold last winter likely killed off all of the fruit bearing spurs. Hopefully we don’t have a repeat this winter. Update: I have since found out that the more likely culprit for the lack of fruit in our area last year was a late spring frost, rather than the January temperatures, although each area and even each garden is different - so who really knows?
In 2015 I plan to get a few more fruit trees. I think I’ll leave that discussion to my next post when I talk about my overall plan for the coming season.
Up until this past year, the herbs had been scattered throughout the vegetable beds – a good idea in theory, but working around the herbs, especially the perennials, was a bit tedious, especially when it came to prepping the bed for a new crop. So, as part of my expansion this past year, I built a small herb bed. The bed is 8’ x 2.5’ and uses only one row of 2x6’s (vs. the regular beds which use two rows & are therefore twice as deep).
|Cilantro & Dill in Herb Bed|
- Common Thyme
- Lemon Thyme
- Purple Sage
All of the herbs did very well, with the exception of the basil. It died an early death after it was infected with Basil Downy Mildew.
After harvesting many sprigs of dill & cilantro in the early summer, I let the plants go to seed. They grew much taller than I had anticipated, both of them reaching around 5’ tall or more. I was able to harvest a good amount of coriander seed (which I talked about HERE) but the dill developed some sort of mildew in late summer, so I didn’t end up harvesting any dill seed.
The parsley was fantastic, as always. I grew two different varieties of flat leaf parsley but unfortunately forgot to label them when I transplanted them into the herb bed. One of the varieties still had plenty of fresh leaves in December & ended up giving me a nice harvest for our Christmas dinner, but I have no idea which one. I’ll be more diligent in my labeling this coming year. I have left both plants in the ground to overwinter so that I can harvest some fresh leaves in early spring before the plants bolt.
|You can see the original angle on the top right corner of this bed;|
I added wooden planks to the outside edge, joining this bed with
the new bed that I placed behind it,
creating a triangular spot for the oregano.
Speaking of rosemary, it does not survive the winter in our climate, so I plant it outside over the summer and then bring it inside for the winter. I’m pretty much a brown thumb when it comes to indoor plants (although I’m working on it!) and unfortunately, the rosemary has already succumbed so I will have to purchase a new plant come spring.
|Rosemary during happier, healthier times in the garden|
Overall Impressions and Plan for Next Year
Other than the basil issue, I was very happy with how the herbs did this past year & I’m not planning any major changes. Thankfully, Basil Downy Mildew (BDM) does not overwinter in our climate, so I should be safe in using the herb bed for basil again this summer. I do plan on purchasing new seed. Since this disease is easily transmitted through the air, however, there is still no guarantee that the plants will not get infected if a neighbor purchases an infected plant at a big box store, this being a major source of the outbreak this past year.
Recently, I discovered a BDM resistant variety of sweet basil - Eleonora Sweet Basil. I noticed that this variety is available both locally at William Dam Seeds and in the US at Johnny's and High Mowing Seeds. It was one of the first items on my seed list this year (which I've finally finished, btw, and will post about soon!).
I think I will grow two stands of both dill and cilantro this year. I found that the extremely tall plants made the other herbs in the bed difficult to harvest. The first planting of dill and cilantro will be sown at one end of a regular bed instead of the herb bed. I will harvest leaves from these, but then let them go to seed in the summer. During the summer, I will do a 2nd sowing of cilantro & dill in the herb bed, but this will be strictly for leaf harvest.
This year, I also want to grow some chamomile – I have always wanted to try growing herbs for tea and I figure that chamomile, together with the mint, is a good place to start.
And lastly, I am hoping that this will be the year when I finally get a dehydrator. I would love to dry my own herbs (amongst other things) & a dehydrator would make that so much easier. My birthday is coming up in a few months....let's see if my husband really does read my blog ;)
Till next time...